Verbal abuse-Hurting another with words

Onas Devarim-Hurting another with words:

A. The law:[1]

Just as there is a prohibition against oppressing another in business [by cheating him] so too there is a prohibition against oppressing someone with words.[2] Oppressing another with words is even worse than oppressing him monetarily [through cheating him].[3] A victim of verbal insult who cries to Hashem is immediately answered.[4] 

B. Who?

A non-G-d fearing Jew:[5] Some Poskim[6] rule it is only forbidden to verbally oppress people who are G-d fearing while those who are not G-d fearing may be oppressed.[7] [Other Poskim however make no distinction in this matter, and so is implied to be the opinion of Admur that the prohibition applies against all Jews.[8]]

A gentile: The prohibition

One who insults himself:[9] Some Poskim[10] rule it is permitted to verbally oppress people who oppress themselves. [This means to say that it is permitted to verbally oppress a person who outwardly embarrasses himself without care.[11]]

One who insulted you:[12] It is forbidden to verbally oppress even one who insulted you.

Wife:[13] One must be very careful not to oppress his wife, not to cause her pain with words.[14] G-dly retribution for oppressing one’s wife is quick to come.[15] A person is to be very careful with his wife’s honor as the blessing of the home of a man is only found due to the wife. Chazal[16] stated to their generation “Respect your wives in order to become wealthy.”

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[1] Admur Hilchos Onah 27; Michaber C.M. 228/1; Bava Metzia 58b

[2] Admur ibid; Michaber ibid; Mishneh Bava Metzia 58b

The reason: As the verse [Vayikra 25/17] states “Velo Sonu Ish Es Amiso Vayareisa Meielokecha”, this verse refers to oppressive words. [Admur ibid; See Smeh 228/1; Bava Metzai ibid]

[3] Admur ibid; Michaber ibid; Rebbe Yochanon in Bava Metzia 58b

The reason: As when one cheats another he can pay him back and hence undo the damage done however oppressive words can never be equalized or be undone. Likewise, [one cannot compare] an oppression to one’s money to an oppression to one’s body. [Admur ibid; Michaber ibid; Rebbe Yochanon ibid]

[4] Admur ibid; Michaber ibid; Rambam Mechira 14/18

The reason: As he contains pain in his heart and is close to shedding tears. [Admur ibid; see Smeh 228/2; Rashi Bava Metzia 59b] And Chazal state that all the gates are closed except for the gate of verbal oppression. [Bava Metzia 59a-b and Rashi ibid]

[5] Rama ibid

[6] Opinion in Rama ibid; Nimukei Yosef Bava Metzia ibid; Rav Chanina Bar Idi Bava Metzia 59a; Bach 228 in name of Mordechai

[7] The reason: As the verse states “Lo Sonu Amisecha” which refers to a friend that is with you in observing Torah and Mitzvos. [Smeh 228/4; Bava Metzia ibid]

[8] Admur ibid and Michaber ibid make no mention of such an exemption, hence explicitly omitting the ruling of the Rama ibid; See also Michaber 228/6 and Admur ibid 12 that the prohibition of Geneivas Daas applies even towards a gentile.

[9] Rama ibid; omitted in Admur ibid

[10] Opinion in Rama ibid; Nimukei Yosef Bava Metzia ibid

[11] Smeh 228/4; Beir Heiytiv 228/1; Nesivos Hamishpat 228/1

The reason: As “Amisecha” refers to normal people who care about their dignity. However, those who don’t care about their dignity are not part of the norm included in the term “Amisecha” and hence do not have this prohibition pertaining to their verbal suffering. [Smeh ibid]

Other opinions: Some Poskim rule this to means that if one verbally oppresses you, then you may verbally oppress them back. [brought in Smeh ibid who negates this explanation] Other Poskim rule that this statement of the Rama is a continuation of his previous statement regaridng one who is not G-d fearing. [Olas Shabbos, brought in Smeh ibid, and negated by Smeh]

[12] Smeh ibid

Other opinions: Some Poskim learn in Rama ibid that if one verbally oppresses you, then you may verbally oppress them back. [brought in Smeh ibid who negates this explanation]

[13] Admur Hilchos Onah 32

[14] Admur Hilchos Onah 32; Michaber 228/3; Rav in Bava Metzia 59a

The reason: Since she is easily brought to tears, the G-dly retribution for verbally oppressing one’s wife is quick to come. [Admur ibid; See Michaber ibid; Gemara ibid] A woman has a sensitive nature and can be brought to tears with minor suffering, and Hashem does not close the gates to tears. [Smeh 228/5]

[15] Admur ibid; Smeh 228/5

The reason: Since she is easily brought to tears, the G-dly retribution for verbally oppressing one’s wife is quick to come. [Admur ibid; See Michaber ibid; Gemara ibid] A woman has a sensitive nature and can be brought to tears with minor suffering, and Hashem does not close the gates to tears. [Smeh 228/5]

[16] Bava Metzia ibid

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